L. Neil Smith's
Number 342, October 23, 2005

 Tenth Anniversary Edition, Part 4 

Terrorized by a T-shirt
by Derek A Benner

Exclusive to TLE

Lorrie Heasley offended some of her fellow passengers by boarding a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, wearing a t-shirt showing Bush, Cheney and Rice with the caption, "Meet the Fuckers". As the ultimate result of doing so, she was forced to leave the airplane at Reno, Nevada.

I'm not going to try to argue the caption was not potentially offensive. Nor am I going to take the position Southwest does not have the right to refuse service to any potential customer.

What gets me is the arguments people have been posting to 'defend' the other passengers' 'right' to force her to change her shirt or leave. Here are some of the justifications put forth in various blogs and online forums.

Her shirt's message was visible to children and she has no right to force the parents of those children to explain what the word, 'Fucker,' means. This is most often spouted by uber-conservative, deeply fundamental Christians—exactly the same people who so brutally slammed Senator Hillary Clinton for her 'it takes a village' and 'to protect our children' views.

You wouldn't demand Starbucks doesn't have the right to refuse to serve someone, so why should Southwest have to provide her service? (OK, I admit I said I wasn't going to touch on this, but I lied.) These people acknowledge that Southwest had written policies that might have covered this event, however, they fail to admit that this event wasn't 'quite' the same as turning away a Starbucks customer from the order counter. No, Mrs. Heasley would have had to buy a Vente Latte, pay for it, sit down and partially consume the drink prior to the Starbucks manager coming over to inform her that her hair was 'offending' other customers and telling her to either pull her hair back from her eyes, get it shampooed and styled or leave—all without allowing her to either finish her drink or take it with her, nor refunding her money. Now, if I went to a Starbucks and they pulled this stunt on me, I'd have a few choice words about how Starbucks did business.

Mrs. Heasley is 'fat-assed' and she didn't deserve to be allowed to wear such a shirt onto the airplane. Now what in sam-hell-tarnation does her, real or imagined, excess weight have to do with whether she has the right to wear a politically-humorous-yet-offensive t-shirt onto Southwest's airplanes. They might as well say that she doesn't have the right to wear this t-shirt as long as the Harvest Moon is in the sky.

This t-shirt is a lie. Hmmm… Do we know this view to be factually accurate? If we accept the base definition that 'to fuck' does include the simple act of having sex, then if it can be demonstrated that the people portrayed on the shirt have engaged in sex, the caption is not a lie. I don't know about Condoleeza Rice, but I think we can safely assume both Dick Cheney and George W. Bush are, under that definition, 'fuckers'. I point to their daughters as clear and convincing evidence of that. (Unless someone has solid proof to support the theory that both Mrs. Cheney and Mrs. Bush conceived via immaculate conception—and shouldn't the Pope be notified if this is the case?)

In this time of war, either you support our President or you are committing treason. Okaaaaaaay… The t-shirt merely claims the Gang of Three are 'fuckers'. It doesn't claim they're 'fuckers' because they started an illegal war in Iraq. It could be referring to their attempts to subvert the Kyoto Accord. Heck. I'm in favor of subverting the Kyoto Accord, but I accept other Americans support it and might be pissed enough to wear this t-shirt in protest. Furthermore, if the war in Iraq is based upon such a weak premise as to be disrupted because someone is protesting by wearing a fucking t-shirt, then maybe we ought to re-think our presence in Iraq. Besides, think of all the innocent troops whose lives we'll spare by pulling our troops home. Plus, there is the factor that in times of war we, the people, are more likely to be unquestioning of our President's actions so we need to have citizens who are willing to raise the critical and opposing views.

She should have just gotten off in Reno, pulled her luggage out and changed shirts. Yeah, right. Anyone ever heard of 9-11? Does Transportation Security Agency ring anyone's bell? If I manage to hold my nose and close my mouth long enough to get through that statist body-search and onto the plane, I'm not going to raise the fears and suspicions of the TSA jack-booted thugs by getting off the airplane halfway through the journey, demand they pull out my luggage and then demand to be let back on board. I have no desire to give TSA any justification to probe my nether regions with blunt or sharp instruments!

What the gist of the supporters of Southwest's decision boils down to is that Lorrie Heasley has every right to wear a t-shirt in protest as long as the t-shirt doesn't actually challenge the conservative view, doesn't protest anything the conservatives cherish and doesn't 'offend' the conservatives' religious, social, moral and economic beliefs. In other words, despite the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, we don't have Freedom of Speech in the United States of America.

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